World news

Anger over US medal for Israel critic

By Nathan Guttman, August 6, 2009

In the current contentious relationship between the Obama administration and Israel, even symbolic gestures are being taken as signs that the bond between the two countries is deteriorating.

Such is the case with Mary Robinson’s selection as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honour.

The former president of Ireland and UN High Commissioner on Human Rights is among the 16 US and international figures who will receive the medal at an August 12 White House ceremony.

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SATC star leaves Oxfam for Israeli cosmetics

By Jessica Elgot, August 6, 2009

Sex and the City actress Kristin Davis is an unlikely champion of Israel, even if her character Charlotte did convert to Judaism in the hit series.

But reports claim the actress, 44, has taken a break from her role as an ambassador for Oxfam International because of her endorsement of Ahava cosmetics, which is manufactured by Dead Sea Cosmetics in the Mitzhe Shalem West Bank settlement.

Oxfam are reported to have said there was conflict of interest because the cosmetics are manufactured in “disputed territory.”

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Last Jew of Vilkaviskis goes home

By Marcus Dysch, August 6, 2009

When Eli Rutstein and his family left Vilkaviskis 45 years ago, they were the last Jews to leave the Lithuanian town which had once boasted a Jewish community of thousands.

After they left for Israel, the town’s Jewish past was largely forgotten and its 50,000 residents are mostly now unaware of the role the community once played.

But last week Mr Rutstein, now a 61-year-old father-of-three, returned to his home town and received a hero’s welcome from civic dignitaries and former classmates.

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Call to lift German Mein Kampf ban

By Jessica Elgot, August 6, 2009

Germany’s main Jewish representative organisation has renewed its efforts to overturn the state’s ban on publishing Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

Stephan Kramer, secretary-general of the Central Council for Jews in Germany has called for the publication of a scholarly edition of the book, with footnotes challenging Hitler’s assertions, claiming it would prevent black market printing of the book where neo-Nazi groups profit.

Mr Kramer also argued that continuing to ban the book would glamorise it, and that Germans were sophisticated enough to make up their own minds.

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Seinfeld reunited by Larry David

By Jessica Elgot, July 31, 2009

The cast of Seinfeld will finally be reunited after 11 years on a special finale episode of Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm

Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander and Michael Richards have not appeared onscreen together since 1998 but will reunite for the show’s season finale.
Members of the case will appear separately in five episodes of the show, where the characters will play themselves negotiating a Seinfeld reunion show, which will be the main theme of the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm

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The New Jersey scandal could hurt Israel's Shas party

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 30, 2009

The arrest of leaders of the Halebi community in New York and New Jersey sent shockwaves through the Sephardi Orthodox party, Shas, in Israel.

While numerically the Halebis are one of the smaller Sephardi groups, their financial clout is inordinate.
Rabbi Ovadia Yossef and other Shas leaders have regularly visited the Halebi communities in New York, Sao Paolo and Mexico City to give sermons and fundraise.

Rabbi Ovadia has been close to the community for over six decades. While he was born in Baghdad, his late wife, Margalit, was the daughter of a respected Halebi family.

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Syrian Jews in shock after rabbis' arrest

By Elicia Brown, July 30, 2009

America’s Syrian-Jewish community is reeling from a double blow.

Three of its rabbis have been arrested for money laundering in a wide-ranging sweep which netted 44 people, including three New Jersey mayors, several local politicians and two other rabbis of Ashkenazi background.
The alleged fraudulent activity was exposed by a fourth Syrian Jew, Solomon Dwek, who was accused of being a traitor by his community.

The property developer had been charged in 2006 with bank fraud and became an informant for the FBI.

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Conservative Jewry fights to survive in US

By Elicia Brown, July 30, 2009

Elie Kaunfer, 35, is exactly the type of Jew the Conservative movement would love to claim. Passionate about Jewish tradition and ordained as a rabbi by the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary, he feels most at home with the egalitarian services which are popular in the centrist stream.

Yet Rabbi Kaunfer will not say he belongs to the Conservative movement — indeed, he will not put any label on his Jewish identity. As co-founder of the wildly popular Hadar, an independent minyan in New York, he knows many young Jews who feel the same.

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Three arrested in Iran for 'devil worship'

By Jessica Elgot, July 30, 2009

An Iranian news agency has claimed that police in the north west Iranian province of Ardabil arrested three people, including a Jewish woman, for devil worship.

The Fars news agency, a governmental news body, said: “Two men and a Jewish woman, who were promoting the cult of Satan worship among the youth of Parsabad town, have been arrested,”

It also claimed more than 100 items, including jewellery made from human skulls, have been seized from the arrested people.

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This is Madonna, reporting from Israel

By Jessica Elgot, July 29, 2009

The Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot has a new face on its pages - Madonna.

The paper is publishing Madonna's article "How My Life Changed" on Friday, translated into Hebrew.

The recently divorced star, 50, is devoted to Kabbalah and has adopted a Hebrew name, Esther.

She will perform in Israel for the final leg of her Sticky and Sweet tour in September.

The article is said to be about her “religious awakening” which she claims happened 14 years ago, a report from the Associated Press claimed.

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